Table of Contents
Part I: Embodiment and The Incarnation
A House in Ruins
I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no
For we that are in this house do groan, being burdened:
not that we would be unclothed.
7:18; 2 Corinthians 5:4
C. S. Lewis
wrote in his book, The Problem of Pain: (89)
[The Fall of Man] was not, I
conceive, comparable to mere deterioration as it may now occur
in a human individual; it was a loss of status as a species.
What man lost by the Fall was his original specific nature.
This condition was transmitted
by heredity to all later generations, for it was not simply what
biologists call an acquired variation; it was the emergence of
a new kind of man a new species, never made by God, had
sinned itself into existence. The change which man had undergone
was not parallel to the development of a new organ or a new habit;
it was a radical alteration of his constitution, a disturbance
of the relation between his component parts, and an internal
perversion of one of them.
Our present condition, then, is
explained by the fact that we are members of a spoiled species.
Since we are as much a body with
a spirit as we are a spirit with a body, it is clear that a "spoiled"
body makes a spoiled person. Our nature in its entirety, body
89. Lewis, C. S., The Problem of Pain,
New York, Macmillan, 1962, p.83, 85.
has been fatally injured.
We are, in fact, no longer MAN at all, no longer MAN as God intended.
When the Lord God called out in
the Garden of Eden, "Adam, where are you?" it was,
I suggest, not the man hiding in the bushes that He was looking
for. He knew where that individual was. What had been lost from
the web of life which He had just finished creating was the master
species, the appointed agent of management for that web of life.
Mankind was, in short, the first of a whole catalogue of species
which would subsequently be "endangered". The extinction
of species, so common to history since, began with the Fall of
the species, Man.
The Lord God had just finished creating Man as the one species
that bore his own image. It was that kind of "man"
that had now disappeared, converted by sin into a creature quite
unlike the original without innocence, without immortality,
without the sure instincts of all other creatures, and above
all, having lost the image he had been endowed with.
Adam's children were born in his
image, no longer in God's image. Genesis 5:3 makes this only
too clear by stating the two positions very deliberately and
in juxtaposition. God had created man in His own image (verse
1): fallen Adam now procreated men in his own image (verse
By the introduction of a deadly
poison into his system after eating the forbidden fruit, he had
entailed to all his naturally born descendants a fatally flawed
constitution, both physically considered and spiritually. And
the process has been at work generation after generation, steadily
deteriorating man's vitality from a life span of nearly a thousand
years to 120, and for the vast majority of his descendants considerably
less than that by David's time a mere three-score and ten
The world was not to see another
truly Adamic body as God had created it, for four thousand years:
not until it re-appeared in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ,
in a form so superb, so magnificent, so beautiful, that it proved
a perfect vehicle for
the expression of God Himself.
Now and then we see a 'splendid
specimen' of manhood or womanhood, a splendour which survives
for a few years. But hiddenly it is already dying. All the time
a secret rot is eating away at it. When finally, with the departure
of the spirit, death blows out the candle a process of decay
that has been proceeding throughout life suddenly gallops away,
and disintegration takes place with appalling speed unless
the undertaker quickly intervenes to slow it up.
This decay is not something that
has just begun. Living, we are dying from the moment of
birth. The transformation of an immortal creature into a mortal
one has affected every cell, every organ, every fibre of the
body, and leads inevitably to the transformation of what has
had beauty in its day into what now tends only towards ugliness
It is only the extraordinary refinement
of this machinery, with its ability to heal wounds and to correct
its DNA transcription errors, that preserves it as well as it
Now, is there
any evidence that the corruption of the body does truly 'insult'
the soul or spirit in any very vital way? Indeed there is. And
the fact was made remarkably manifest when men and women by the
hundreds of thousands were subjected to the desecration of their
bodies in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II.
Many studies of these camps and their effect upon people have
been undertaken in recent years. One of these, by Terrence Des
Pres, is titled The Survivor. It is a study of what factors
enabled some few to survive while the vast majority were simply
overwhelmed and died in the camps.
One of the remarkable things that
Pres observed after interviewing or corresponding with a great
number of these survivors, was the importance of care of the
body, of cleanliness, even if it was pitifully little
they could do usually amounting to nothing more than a
token washing by dipping a finger in their cold ersatz coffee
and touching the cheeks
or the forehead.
One survivor whom he interviewed
observed, "I began to look around me and saw the beginning
of the end for any woman who might have had the opportunity to
wash and had not done so." (90) These people lived in filth of unimaginable dimensions
excrement, vomit, running wounds, no form of uncleanness
was lacking in that environment. In some camps they stood ankle-deep
in it all day. Even the birds soon ceased to fly over the camps
because of the stench. And yet, the tiniest, wee-est token of
attention to the cleanliness of the body was often enough to
keep the spirit alive. When that token was abandoned,
the individual was already as good as dead.
Another survivor said, "Many inmates ceased to wash. This
was the first step to the grave. It was almost an iron law. Those
who failed to 'wash' every day soon died . . . an infallible
Des Pres is a most perceptive writer,
He comments on this: "If spiritual resilience declines,
so does physical endurance. If the body sickens, the spirit begins
to lose its grip. There is a strange circularity about existence
in extremity. Survivors preserve their dignity in order 'not
to begin to die': they care for the body as a matter of
'moral survival'." (92) One could scarcely ask for a more striking illustration
of the interaction and interdependence of body on spirit and
spirit on body.
Pres speaks of the defilement of
the body reaching such proportions as to produce what he aptly
terms "spiritual concussion." (93) Some were forced to eat excrement and if they refused,
had their heads held under until they complied. When they were
allowed to lift their heads, they literally went insane. One
survivor spoke of immersion in human excrement as "the nadir
of his passage through extremity. No worse assault on a man's
moral being seems possible." (94)
Women who have in our day and world
been raped sometimes by more than one attacker have
had such a
90. Pres, Terrence D., The Survivor, Oxford
University Press, 1976, p.63.
91. Ibid., p.64.
92. Ibid., p.65.
93. Ibid., p.66.
94. Ibid., p.71.
devastating sense of
defilement as to attempt suicide. Those who are acquainted with
the story of Lawrence of Arabia may recall that he, too, felt
like committing suicide after being defiled by a despicable minor
I think Pres is quite right to
stress the fact that a feeling of defilement underlies the concept
of guilt and that washing of the body underlies the concept of
spiritual purification. The association between moral cleansing
of guilt and physical purification from defilement, seems to
be reflected by the many occasions upon which ritual washing
is prescribed in the Bible for those engaged in the service of
the Lord. See, for instance, Exodus 30:1721; Leviticus 8:6,
and in the New Testament Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6: 11; Hebrews
10:22. And as having an obvious bearing, see also Ezekiel 36:25;
Zechariah 13:1, and John 13:10.
It may be argued that cleansing
of the body without cleansing the spirit is ineffective,
except for social reasons. The observation is clearly correct.
But by the same token, it may well be that cleansing the spirit
without cleansing the body would seem to be equally ineffective.
The highly spiritual individual who doesn't care for the cleanliness
of his person can only be half-highly spiritual!
But the normal reaction to this
kind of antithetical statement would probably be, "Well,
the body doesn't matter nearly so much as the soul, does it?"
Hebrews 10:22 bears on this matter: "Let us draw near with
a true heart in the full assurance of faith, having our hearts
sprinkled from an evil conscience (i.e., our spirits washed
in the blood of the Lamb) and our bodies washed with pure
water." This twofold cleanliness of both spirit and
body seems to be required for a fully mature faith, for a whole
not a half faith.
It is an odd situation, this ambivalence
we have about the value of the body. Here we have a tumbled-down
house for the spirit, which the spirit is nevertheless deeply
attached to so deeply that it faces separation with grave
concern. And this grave concern is just as likely to be shared
most of life even by
those who have every hope of a far more excellent house reserved
There is no doubt that the Bible
paints a rather awful picture of the state of ruin this house
is in. Paul is particularly strong on this point.
In Romans 6:6 he refers to it as
a "body of sin."
In Romans 6:12 he speaks of it
as "mortal." This might be harmless enough if mortality
was natural to it. But it isn't at all natural to it.
It was designed for immortality, so that its mortal-ness is precisely
what it was not designed for. It is in an un-natural state,
a condition of fatal disease tantamount to a kind of leprosy
that in death places the body, according to Scripture, in the
same "untouchable" position as the leper is in during
life. Neither the leper nor the dead body can be touched by the
living without suffering defilement (cf. Leviticus 13:4446
and Numbers 19: 1120).
Hiddenly our living body is as inwardly
diseased as a leper's body is outwardly so. And this is because
it has been unnaturally mortalized and is, in fact, already as
good as dead.
Indeed, Romans 7:24 refers to the
body as a "body of death." This is an expression which
is Hebrew in content but Greek in construction:
it would have been better rendered simply "a dead body."
This form of transposition of words
is common in Hebrew. It appears, for example, in Psalm 48:1.
"the mountain of his holiness," which is better rendered
"his holy mountain." So in Psalm 47:8 we should read
"his holy throne" and in Job 30:12 "their destructive
ways.." So also in the New Testament we have from Paul in
Ephesians 6:10, "the power of his might," i.e., "his
mighty power"; in Colossians 1:22, "in the body of
his flesh," meaning "in his fleshly body."
When in Romans 7:24 Paul refers to this
dead body which he longs to be delivered from, he may have had
in mind a situation which was not uncommon in the Roman world.
One particularly awful form of punishment for a
convicted murderer was
to have the victim's body chained to him in such a way that he
was forced to carry it or drag it wherever he went until in its
final state of decay it literally fell to pieces. . . . If
this is true, it is no wonder that Paul, in Philippians 3:21,
should speak of the body as something that is vile.
The reader may be perfectly justified
in protesting that Paul's body was overtly diseased in some way
which scholars have not yet agreed upon, and that therefore his
thinking was highly coloured by personal experience. But the
important thing is to recognize that when man dies, he dies an
unnatural death, a death which he has been dying all his life.
For many this process is delayed in such a way as to conceal
the fact of decay and almost to hold out a promise of immortality.
But as soon as the spirit departs, the illusion is destroyed.
The disintegration of the body is rapid indeed. And it is doubtful
if man finds anything quite as distressing to look upon as a
decomposing human body. It is a terribly disturbing sight for
man though apparently animals are almost if not totally
indifferent to it.
Only in the
presence of such decay is the distance made plain between the
body of fallen Adam and the body of unfallen Adam as revealed
in that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such was that body that
even after burial for three days it saw no corruption. And it
saw no corruption because it was never subject to death in the
Our dying is always in some measure
"an act of violence," the tearing apart of two elements
the spirit and the body which were never intended
to be parted. But it was essential in God's economy of things
that this body should be destroyed since it has become a partner
in our fallen nature and only by dissolution and resurrection
in an entirely new form could it be rid of its infection. The
spirit of man is newly re-created (2 Corinthians 5:17), not merely
reformed: the body of man cannot be merely reformed either. We
dwell in a house in ruins which, after it has fallen
to pieces in the grave,
will not simply be put together again. It will not be re-formed
out of the old substance, but transformed into a house as glorious
as that which is Christ's in his resurrection (Philipppians 3:21).
Thomas Boston in 1720 put the matter
very beautifully when he wrote: "There is a vileness in
the body which, as to the saints, will never be removed, until
it be melted down in the grave, and cast in a new form at the
resurrection, to come forth a spiritual body." (95)
Man lives in a house in ruins,
in a body which does not represent a mere miscuing of evolutionary
processes but a body which was designed for, and in two individuals
displayed, a potential for physical glory and immortality. Both
individuals were called Adam.
Evolution gives us no clue as to
how they appeared on the scene, for the first was formed
by divine creative intervention and the second miraculously conceived
and virgin born.
95. Boston, Thomas, Human Nature In Its
Fourfold State, London, Religious Tract Society, 1720, p.99.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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